Home again after a trip to London yesterday to go to the Awards ceremony for the FreeFrom Food Awards 2015 (yes, I served as judge again this year).
And what a great evening it was… it gets bigger every year as the variety of free from food available grows. And the quality of the products is getting better every year too, as companies are having to up their game in order to compete in this growing market.
You can see the full list of winners here but I want to tell you about the sponsors.
Organising awards like the FreeFrom Food Awards is a complex (and costly) affair, and the Awards team do an amazing job.
When I tell you that for just one of the categories I helped judge this year there were 55 entrants, and 11 judges, and that for another every dish had to be prepared separately to reach the table in its best possible condition, you’ll begin to understand that the coordination required is huge. There are a panel of about 70 judges overall, and 17 categories, with many products in each… It’s a lot of work, particularly since the number of categories and entrants grows every year.
And it wouldn’t be possible at all without the help of the companies who sponsor each category of award. Please do read to see who they are, and visit their own websites to learn more about what they do for the free from sector.
This year, those companies are:
- Tesco, who sponsored Breakfast Foods
Tesco had a great night, winning Best Retailer overall, and with several successful products, including their savoury party pack selection and their haddock fishcakes. Tesco have really enhanced their product range recently, and we’re delighted.
- Genius, who sponsored the Bread category
Genius also had a winner, with their gluten free and dairy free pains au chocolat (yes, read that again: dairy free). These are not often to be found in the supermarket near us, because they get snapped up so quickly. They’re good – and to be honest, we hadn’t even realised they were dairy free!
- Sainsburys’, who sponsored the Store Cupboard section
Sainsbury’s, like Tesco, are one of the big four supermarket chains here in the UK, and have been a reliable source of gluten free products for us for years. Some of their products are staples in our house, such as the baguettes – and the mini chocolate logs are a good treat.
- Integrated Food Projects Ltd sponsored Pasta and Pizza
Integrated Food Projects are a new sponsor for the FFFA, and they project-manage the development of food factories. They have an impressive client list, including the big supermarkets (and many others you’ll have heard of). Have a look at the list of services they offer; I’d no idea how much goes into building a new food factory.
- Tiana Fair Trade Organics sponsored Raw Foods and Superfoods
Tiana are experts in coconut products, which are becoming increasingly popular (have you noticed?). They import and manufacture a range of high quality organic and fair trade products in the food and beauty sectors. Their products are sold to retailers, wholesalers, the catering trade and the food production industry, as well as exported to other countries – and you can buy the products at their online shop.
- Food and Drink Innovation Network sponsored Food to Go and Vending Machines
The Food and Drink Innovation Network organise food and drink industry conferences and webinars in the UK, with a particular interest in innovation – not just product innovation, but best practice and innovation across the industry. (I’ve just subscribed to their newsfeed – there’s all sorts of interesting information in there).
- Udi’s sponsored the ‘Down the pub and the bar’ category
My coeliac daughter loves Udi’s bagels. Fairly new to this country, Udi’s seem to be adding new products to their range all the time. If you haven’t tried their bagels, you should: the plain and the chocolate chip are the current favourites here.
- Genon Laboratories sponsored the Meat/Fish ready meals category
Genon Laboratories is a UKAS accredited testing lab, offering niche analytical services to the food (and feed) industries. Of course, we’re mostly interested in their Food Allergen Testing service, but they offer a range of services to food producers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. This stuff matters! (Have a look at their Test in A Box site, too).
- Goodness Direct sponsored the Veggie ready meals category
GoodnessDirect is a long-established and successful online supermarket, selling a wide range of healthy, free from, eco and organic foods. The thing we like best about GoodnessDirect is that you can filter the products by diet, so you see only the products that are suitable for your needs. And some products can only be found there (especially if you live out in the rurals, like me). They told me last night that their new mobile site is now live too – so go and check it out.
- Wellaby’s sponsored the Foods for Treenut/Peanut allergics category
Wellaby’s produce a range of gluten free snacks, in a dedicated gluten free facility. Looking at their website, I can see that some of the products are chips+dips products; we’ve got to try those. I’ll see if I can find out where we can buy them…
- Delamere Dairy sponsored the Foods for Children category
I’m assuming everyone in the country knows who Delamere Dairy are? They sell specialty dairy products, including goat dairy products and soya products, and you’ll find their products on a supermarket shelf near you. They’re based very near me (not that I’m biased).
- Mrs Crimbles sponsored the Tea Time category
Mrs Crimbles is probably best known for their macaroons, which are widely available. But they have a much wider range than that, including snacks, crackers and stuffing mix. Plus, I learn from the Food & Drink Innovation Network (see above) that they’ve recently launched a new range of pasta and sauce packets. Check them out…
- Romer Labs UK sponsored the Desserts and Puddings category
Romer Labs are experts in food safety diagnostics, and run fully accredited service labs. They help ensure the highest quality standards at all stages of the supply chain in the agricultural, food and feed industries – and they have a complete portfolio for gluten testing, both in the lab, and in factories.
- Free-From Heaven sponsored the Confectionery and chocolate category
Free-From Heaven publish a series of magazines dedicated to free-from cooking and baking, so whether your interest is in dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, paleo or vegan cooking, there’ll be recipes in their magazines that will suit you. The magazines are available in supermarkets and other magazine stockists, as well as available for subscription online.
- Holland & Barrett sponsored the Bars category
I expect you know who Holland & Barrett are. They are a long established health food chain, with shops in high streets across the country. They sell a range of free from products in their shops – but they also have an online shop (which I didn’t realise until today). For a long time, high street health food shops were one of the few places you could find free from foods. Things are easier now, but they still play an important role.
- Oakland International sponsored the Retailer of the Year category
Oakland International are a food storage, picking, packing and distribution company, transporting food using ambient, chilled and frozen transportation. They deliver to retailers, convenience stores and food service outlets, but they will also help with trade shows and other events. They offer one of those services that consumers tend not to notice; but we wouldn’t be able to have the variety of choice that we do, without these services.
- Food Matters Live sponsored the Innovation Award
The Food Matters Live conference will be in the ExCeL centre, London, in November this year, and is the first cross-sector event bringing together professionals from across the food and drink industry, nutrition and health to explore the relationship between food, health and nutrition. It should be fascinating…
These awards make a big difference to those companies, big and small, whose products were shortlisted, commended, highly commended or winners, creating new opportunities for the businesses and publicising their products to consumers. And as I said, it wouldn’t happen without the sponsors.
I’ve written a book summarising what we’ve learnt over 20 years of dealing with the gluten free diet, and it might be just what you’re looking for. It packs the lessons we’ve learned into what I hope is a helpful and straightforward guidebook. It’s available on Amazon, as a paperback or for your Kindle…